The automation of healthcare workflows is key to improving efficiency, reducing the cost of healthcare provision, and ensuring a high quality of care for patients. Healthcare workflow automation is not used to replace healthcare workers, rather it allows them to work more efficiently by reducing the admin burden and eliminating inefficiencies.
Healthcare workflows consist of a sequence of repeatable tasks – administrative, mental, and physical – which must be performed day-to-day to provide care to patients and perform other important tasks. In healthcare, there are many repetitive tasks that must performed and a myriad of checks to ensure patient safety. Many processes time-consuming and are completed manually and checks are often repeated by multiple members of staff.
Through the intelligent use of health information technology, many healthcare processes can be streamlined, redundant processes can be eliminated, and time-consuming administration tasks can be largely automated without negatively impacting patient safety or the patient experience. In fact, through the use of workflow automation in healthcare, both can be improved.
A common complaint from nurses and physicians is there is not enough time in the day. Workflow automation in healthcare aims to address that problem by removing inefficient processes, reducing the burden on staff, and freeing up time to allow clinicians to spend more time with patients. In healthcare, staff burnout is common due to the high level of stress and excessive workloads. By automating manual repetitive tasks, the burden can be reduced.
A great deal of a clinician’s time is wasted each day due to inefficient processes, outdated communication systems, and legacy technology. Information technology is often used in healthcare, but is implemented in silos, with disparate systems failing to communicate with each other. Data may reside in one system, but the transfer of information to another system is slow or needs to be performed manually. Healthcare workflow automation tools can help to address these interoperability problems, achieve better resource utilization, and through improvements in efficiency, help to drive down the cost of healthcare provision and boost hospital profits.
There are many healthcare workflow automation tools available that can be implemented across the organization to reduce administration tasks and improve the efficiency of healthcare processes. Software solutions have been developed to automate virtually all healthcare admin processes, from admission to discharge and patient follow ups, documentation creation and sharing, and for collaboration, innovation, and regulatory compliance.
Through the analysis of healthcare workflows, healthcare providers can identify inefficient processes and labor-intensive tasks that are causing bottlenecks to occur that hamper patient flow or are taking clinicians away from patients. Software solutions can then be found to address these issues and decrease wait times and delays.
Through the intelligent use of software solutions, healthcare providers can make significant improvements to productivity, reduce bottlenecks that hamper patient flow, improve the patient experience, reduce the potential for errors, and save a considerable amount of time and money.
Healthcare workflow automation is not only concerned with improving efficiency. It is also important for improving patient safety, especially with regard to the accurate recording and transfer of patient information. Many medical errors have their roots mistakes made during patient handoffs, when critical information is not effectively communicated to new shift owners. This is not necessarily due to human error, but often due to the lack of appropriate communication tools.
Secure, healthcare communications platforms may not be the first health information technology that springs to mind when thinking about healthcare workflow automation, but the platforms play a key role in workflow automation and have far reaching benefits across an entire healthcare organization. Often referred to as clinical communication and collaboration (CC&C) solutions, these platforms help to streamline clinical workflows, eliminate waste, improve patient flow in hospitals, and improve patient safety.
These systems are a direct replacement for outdated communication tools such as pagers, faxes, email, and landlines, and consist of a secure, closed-system application that can be used on mobile devices and computers for rapid communication and the secure transfer of important medical important to the point of care.
They allow clinicians to communicate and collaborate without being tied to one location, the platforms integrate with EHRs and help to plug gaps in EHR functionality, and help to eliminate the considerable waste in healthcare that results from one-way communication tools such as pagers. Research shows a typical hospital doctor wastes around 45 minutes a day due to inefficient communication systems, which equates to a loss of around $4 million a year for a typical 500-bed hospital. That money could be used on workflow automation tools, more physicians, and essential medical equipment.
Hospitals that have adopted a CC&C solution have reported many benefits to operational efficiency and have eased bottlenecks, reduced patient transfer times, accelerated information transfer, reduced medical errors, made major productivity gains, and have reduced readmissions and improved patient outcomes.